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Who is Byron?

 

Byron was born to Dale and Evelyn Case on November 23, 1978. Instead of crying, his mother says he "babbled and burbled like a brook" after being delivered into his father's arms. The loving household Byron was raised in nurtured the creative talents he displayed early on -- drawing, making music, and writing stories. Beginning at kindergarten, his parents homeschooled him. This, along with the fact that they ran a home-based chimney-services business, meant they had the flexibility to take their son on fun, educational field trips to places like museums, farmers markets, and (the young bookworm's favorite) public libraries.

Although the Cases were far from wealthy, the family saved for overseas trips. By the time Byron was eleven, he'd slept on beaches in Jamaica, woken up to Australian sunrises, backpacked for a month through Europe--twice--and gone sailing in the Gulf of Mexico. These experiences abroad gave Byron a worldly outlook beyond his years. Adults he met along the way were delighted by the little man's unselfconsciousness, independence, and maturity.

Byron entered his teens with an intense interest in computers, a hobby that also opened doors to other creative outlets. He designed mutimedia art projects for the web, with software and programming languages he'd taught himself. He created websites for friends, just for fun, and volunteered in the technical development of an early online social network. He photographed and edited pictures that were eventually exhibited publicly. Byron's life, in the years after moving out on his own, was an active and emotionally fulfilled one. He spent his free time conversing with friends in coffeehouses, going to live music shows, sampling untried restaurants, cooking for guests at his apartment, tinkering with his car.... But on June 11, 2001, twenty-two years after his birth in that simple farmhouse, that life came to an end because of Kelly Moffett's lies.

Byron used to spend so much time in the company of those he loves; now his only meaningful human contact comes from letters, the weekend visits friends and family pay him, and phone calls placed from prison. He was once a deep sleeper; now he tosses and turns on a hard mattress, and wakes up with headaches. He used to enjoy preparing and eating gourmet meals; now he's forced to eat processed institutional food full of bone fragments and clods of vegetable protein. He once kept a book by his bed at all times; now his only literary pleasure comes from magazine subscriptions and the mail ordered books people are kind enough to send him.

Luxuries aside, Byron says it's the simple everyday things he misses most: silent mornings, long walks, talking into the evening with a close friend, and being able to look up at the night sky.

Crossroads Correctional Center, where Byron has been imprisoned since his 2002 conviction, is a modern maximum-security facility. Byron's living quarters there consist of a 9' x 11' cell with a solid steel door, a bunk bed for him and a cellmate, a seatless toilet, a small sink, a metal desk, a plastic stool to sit on, and a shelf just deep enough for his 13" TV set.

The five-hour-a-day prison job Byron has doesn't pay a cent, but all he seems to resent about it is that these are hours he could be spending productively, in his cell, writing.

There are no educational or vocational programs at Crossroads, and hobby crafts, including most art projects, are forbidden by prison policy. Writing is one of the very few available escapes Byron has from his horrible surroundings. Many of his essays, stories, and poems have been published since his imprisonment--some in magazines and literary journals, some in best-selling books, and some in his own collection, The Pariah's Syntax: Notes from an Innocent Man. After he types and mails them out the old-fashioned way, his blog posts appear online several times a month.

The people Byron is closest to are amazed at how up to date he stays with current events and technology. All Byron feels, though, is that the world is slipping further away with each day he's confined to that prison cell. You'd expect someone in his terrible circumstances to dream about getting back his stolen freedom, but Byron keeps his dreams grounded. He knows they won't come true unless the extraordinary happens.

And if it does happen, what then?

Byron's wide support network would make sure his return to the world would be as free from trauma as possible. He already has serious offers for jobs, a car, and places to stay while starting over. In the long term, Byron wants to get acquainted with the latest software, then put his skills to work designing apps for computers and mobile devices. He wants to make art and music again, to find an agent and publisher for the memoir he's written, to speak before classes and audiences about his experiences in the criminal justice system, to publicly champion autism (specifically, Asperger's syndrome) awareness, and, most importantly, to be an active part of his young godson's life.

Byron considers his most extravagant dream right now is to grow into the self-realized man his confinement keeps him from becoming.

(If you cannot view the slideshow, click here.)

If you would like to get to know Byron even better, follow his blog, order a copy of his book, and read the personal letter he wrote to accompany his application for pardon.

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